This is illustrative of a larger problem the GOP has. This is where I part with David on his belief that a party-sponsored web 2.0 infrastructure will bridge the digital divide. I believe that divide is a function of a much deeper distrust of letting the message go. If the GOP is going to be successful online, we cannot wait for the party to do it.
As the Democrats have shown, this will need to be organized by those in the party who get it. We will have to drag the party apparatus, kicking and screaming, to the dance.
And Patrick recommends a different tone:
So, if you’re not satisfied with how things are going online — well, guess what, this isn’t TV where you need a few million bucks to get your message out. You don’t even need $100,000 to hire some corporate Web developer to build your big community/fundraising/activism site. Build it yourself. Do some rapid prototyping, get a beta out there, build an audience, and then go in for the political equivalent of secondary financing (ask your list for money).
What I’m describing isn’t some leftist communal pipedream. It’s how Web 2.0 startups in Silicon Valley work right now. If you want to realize the benefits of 2.0 you’ve got to play by the rules of 2.0.
Patrick nails it. Build it. I tried that whole Silicon Valley thing. I didn’t make much money, but I got a boatload of VC investment. I learned a lesson from that: Figure out what difference in the economics you are providing. You will make money and make a difference there.
In some sense, the tech boom of the late 90s was about getting information to consumers, and in that sense, the permanent campaign was just exploiting that. This was facilitated by cable TV, a 24-hour newscycle, etc. The technology made it easier to get your message out all the time.
Now Web 2.0 adds an idea: the consumer can talk back to you (or someone else). The obvious lesson for politics is that we should be making voter-to-voter and voter-to-influential contact easier. The time and money costs are dropping. In other words, technology should make activism easier. The RNC’s research, conveniently, pointed out that voter-to-voter contact will turn out bodies. And voter-to-influential contact is lobbying. We are just talking about expanding the scale.
The obvious modern corollary to the permanent campaign is permanent activism.
I am a political junky. I wake up in the morning with tons of email and stuff in my RSS reader. Why don’t I have a menu of options every morning to "click here to stick it to Nancy Pelosi" or "click here to tell a reporter he is missing or misrepresenting the story" and "click here to share with your friends"? It is easy now. Really easy.
So where is it? And the party doesn’t have to do this. The 501(c)(4)s and 527s should be doing this. The party is, and should be, a lagging indicator of trends because it spends precious hard money. What it does should work. Patrick is right. Build it and they will come.